Updated by Sven Nef on 21.04.2017
The Syrian Arab Republic is a middle-income country with a population of 22.5 million, 55% of whom live in urban areas. Like many other Arab countries, Syria has recently been experiencing solid levels of rapid economic growth (around 4 %), which, however, has not been accompanied by sufficient job creation that could keep pace with the growth of its working-age population. As a consequence, the level of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, is high as well as the proportion of employment found in the informal economy (42%).
Over the past years, Syria has engaged in a transition from a central market economy to a social market economy, which has important implications for the labour market. A new Labour Law has been adopted in April 2010 which sets out the rights and responsibilities of employees in the private sector and defines minimum standards for working conditions. Despite recent reforms, Syria still faces challenges in its labour market and social policies. As a result, a large share of the population lives in economic insecurity. Moreover, the country maintains the oldest social security system in the Arab region, yet faces a number of challenges with respect to coverage, benefit distribution and gender equality.
Despite recent reforms, Syria still faces challenges in its labour market and labour policies. Specifically, high unemployment rates have been one of the features which characterize the Syrian labour market, with approximately 11% of the labour force being unemployed according to official statistics (2008). While female labour force participation rates remain low (14.7% compared to 73.1% for men), women face a particularly high risk of unemployment, with an unemployment rate of 24.2% for women compared to 8.3% for men. Youth unemployment is another major concern, given that 23.4% for young men and women in the age group 15-24 are unemployed (2008). In rural areas, almost two out of three working females and one out of two working males are unpaid or self-employed. Employment in the informal economy reaches around 40% of total employment.
As a result, a large share of the population lives in economic insecurity. Around 30% of the population lives under the upper national poverty line, while 11% of the population are classified as poor under the lower national poverty line.